Gameweek 18 would see the final round of Premier League action before Christmas, which gives top division clubs a chance to reflect as we edge towards the midway point of the season. Some can be pleased with what they have achieved while others will be chomping at the bit to right the wrongs of the first half of the campaign. Luckily for them, there’s plenty of fixtures over the coming weeks, as well as the January transfer window to look forward to. Some clubs will be hoping to hold their prized assets while others look to strengthen. Anyway, here’s the FPL Updates gameweek review…
Dean Henderson – Sheffield United continue to defy the odds as they find themselves in the European places with just one match to go before the halfway stage. Chris Wilder’s business in recent years has been nothing short of superb, and one of his prized finds is on-loan Manchester United stopper Dean Henderson, who is currently spending a second consecutive season on loan with the Blades after helping them to promotion last season. He was in form as his side secured a brilliant 1-0 away at Brighton courtesy of an Oli McBurnie goal.
Christian Kabasele – Watford have had a horrific start to the season and find themselves on their third permanent manager of the season in Nigel Pearson. Hornets fans will be looking to see the same grit and determination shown by Pearson’s Leicester City side, who escaped relegation when bottom at Christmas, before going on to win the Premier League title under Claudio Ranieri the following season. A first home game for Pearson would come against Manchester United at Vicarage Road, and what followed was a treat for Hornets fans.
Marcos Alonso – Chelsea would face legendary manager José Mourinho as they made the short journey to North London to face Spurs on Sunday. As the Blues’ most successful manager, Mourinho is still adored by many at the Stamford Bridge, and has made a strong start to his career as Spurs manager. However, some may question whether his honeymoon period may have come to a premature end as his side fell to a 2-0 home defeat against his former employers on the day. Chelsea bounce back after some poor form.
Jack Stephens – Many Southampton fans will bemoan their ability to pick up points this season, even when they’ve played relatively well. It’s an issue that sees the Saints arguably in a false position in the league, but fans will know there will be no points added for playing well come May. The South Coast side admit they will likely be embroiled in yet another survival battle, but the club are confident enough to keep faith in manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who has seen his side bounce back in confidence after a 9-0 defeat by Leicester earlier in the season.
David Luiz – Very few will argue that David Luiz is a very talented footballer, if not defender. Arsenal made the decision to snap up the Brazilian from London rivals Chelsea at the start of the season. It can be argued whether Luiz is what Arsenal needed, but fans will be hoping to see him kick on under the management of Mikel Arteta, who joins as manager after a spell as assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City which saw the club win two league titles, as well as securing the domestic treble last season.
Lucas Digne – One standout player in an Everton team that has really struggled is former Barcelona full-back Lucas Digne. The Frenchman’s attacking ability is right up there with the best in Europe, and Everton will look back on his signing as a strong piece of business. They hosted Arsenal at Goodison on Saturday, with both sides in desperate need of a win. Of course, it was fitting that the match would end a draw, with a lack of clear-cut chances. It was surprising given the poor defensive records of both of these sides so far this season.
Willian – José Mourinho would come face to face with his former star player in the dugout on Sunday afternoon as Frank Lampard’s Chelsea faced Spurs. Willian opened the scoring early on for the Blues against the club that seemed set to sign him before he opted for West London over North. He would net again, this time from the penalty spot right on the half time whistle after Paulo Gazzaniga had felled Marcos Alonso. Heung-Min Son was dismissed on the hour for a high challenge, which killed off any real chance of a comeback.
Ismaila Sarr – Having signed for Watford for £40 million in summer, there were high expectations for Ismaila Sarr, but it has taken a while for the Senegal international to find his feet in English football. He was able to find the net on Sunday as Watford took the lead against Manchester United, much to the disappointment of David De Gea, who let the ball squirm through his hands. Troy Deeney scored from the spot just moments after to give the Hornets a two-goal lead. They hung on to secure a precious first home win of the season.
Todd Cantwell – Norwich City have had a real mixed bag of a season so far, but they were denied a Christmas present by Wolves as the midlands side came from behind to take a late win at Carrow Road. Todd Cantwell put the Canaries ahead early on, and it was going well for Daniel Farke’s side. However, Romain Saiss equalised around the hour, which saw Wolves smell blood in Norfolk. As the time wore on, it seemed like one goal would win it, and Wolves found it when Raul Jimenez scored with then minutes remaining to take all three points.
Miguel Almiron – Newcastle United winger Miguel Almiron has had a really tough time since arriving from the MLS in January. Having started superbly for the Magpies, an injury saw his season end early last time out, and a spell of poor form has seen the Paraguayan take more than his fair share of criticism. However, he scored his first goal in English football to the tangible delight of the Toon faithful as they beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at St. James’ Park on Saturday. You could see the delight on Almiron’s face as his teammates mobbed the former Atlanta man.
Danny Ings – The goals of former Burnley and Liverpool forward Danny Ings have been keeping Southampton heads above water this season, and he found the net yet again as his side ran out 3-1 winners away at Aston Villa on Saturday. Ings scored a brace on the day, while Jack Stephens also found the net to put Saints 3-0 against a sorry Villa side. They did manage to pull one back, though, and it was some strike from Jack Grealish, who hit home wonderful dipping volley from the corner of the penalty area. It’s Saints, though, who go home happy.
Written by Ryan Nevin (@RNevin7)